Extreme day reached its zenith Sunday in the closing moments of the $50,000 John Bullit Stakes, with Chicago shipper Tiganello and locally stabled Prospective Kiss going nose-to-nose from the 16th pole to the wire.
Track announcer Paul Allen called it the best fifty-grander of the season after it took a calipers to separate the two horses over the final 16th and at the wire in this photo finish.
When the results were posted trainer Hector Magana’s horse had separated himself by a nostril from Prospective Kiss.
“I just tried to push his head down at the wire and hope,” said winning rider Scott Stevens.
Prospective Kiss moved to the front heading into the stretch and Tiganello engaged him and then got his head in front approaching the 16th pole. Prospective Kiss is a fighter of the first rank and dug in, retaking the lead under Derek Bell before the eventual winner dug in himself and the two went eye-ball-to-eyeball past the wire, a bob of the head providing the very narrow difference.
“I made my move sooner than I wanted,” said Stevens, “but I was afraid someone was coming on the outside.”
On hand to present the trophy was Clayton Gray, who made the trip from Winnipeg. The former trainer of John Bullit appreciated the race along with everyone else. “That was a horse race, a good one,” he said.
The win completed a solid week for Stevens, who had three winners the day before.
BRIAN BARENSCHEER JUVENILE STAKES
Paul Nolan, who had the most productive week in the jockey colony, rode Proud Jefe to an easy win in the $50,000 stakes and then set his sights on a similar finish in the John Bullit that followed.
His aim was simple, a trifecta for his wife, Sherry, as a birthday present. “I’ve won the Northbound Pride and the Hoist Her Flag, now I need the John Bullit,” he said. “Sherry galloped all three of those horses when they raced here.
Nolan had the mount on Switzerland in the following stakes but didn’t hit the board. Nonetheless, he had a great week, riding the winner of the 10th, Balsero, for his seventh win.
THE GATES DIDN’T OPEN
A crowd in excess of 15,000 on Sunday packed every area of the grandstand and the apron for much of the day.
Many of them were drawn by the novelty of ostrich and camel races in addition to the races not normally offered.
The only snag came in the sixth race, the battle of the sexes, matching fillies on the turf against colts on the dirt.
The gate opened on the turf several seconds after the gate on the dirt, however, and all wagers on the event had to be refunded.
“There’s no way that was a concern for me,” said Eric Halstrom, the track’s vice president of racing operations. “We practiced it 20 times without a problem.”
ALL HE NEEDED WAS A CLEAN TRIP
Learders Brake has been bumped, he’s been run over and he’s been scared out of his wits by horses flipping in the gate next to him. How does a horse get a little peace and quiet while he runs a race?
One answer was the 250-yard Beat the Clock race that opened Extreme Day on Sunday. Eight quarter horses lined up for this 250-yard race, one by one. That’s right they ran against the clock only, one at a time.
No way Learders Brake couldn’t get a clean trip in this one and that meant he broke his maiden after five previous failures.
Sent off at 29-1, Learders Brake was the second of the eight horses to run and was clocked in 13.322, a time that stood up against the six remaining horses.
That meant a $61.20 payback to anyone who like this fellow from the barn of Bob Johnson, who got the 1,000th victory of his quarter horse career on Friday night.
Now it’s 1001 and counting.
“I’m glad I got it the other night, before this race,” Johnson said.
“This horse has had it all happen to him. This time he had to make his own mistake.”